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An Apple Watch bug let people eavesdrop on your iPhone, so Apple deactivated it

Key Points
  • Apple deactivates the Walkie-Talkie feature on the Apple Watch after it finds that people can use it to eavesdrop on an iPhone.
  • A similar bug in January let people use a FaceTime exploit to listen in on someone else's iPhone.
  • Apple is working on a fix, and says it doesn't know of anyone using the bug against any of its customers. The company will reactivate the feature once the fix is ready.
Apple

Apple discovered a bug that allowed people to use an Apple Watch to listen to conversations through another person's iPhone via the Watch's "Walkie-Talkie" feature. It was first reported to Apple through the company's website, which lets people submit bugs. Apple has disabled the feature until it can release a fix.

The Walkie-Talkie feature was introduced in watchOS 5, which rolled out last September.

"We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue," Apple told CNBC. "We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible."

Apple said that it is "not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it." That means it's highly unlikely that it affected anyone.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer's iPhone without consent."

A similar iPhone bug was found in January 2019, when a teenager discovered a FaceTime bug that allowed someone with an iPhone to place a call to another iPhone and listen through the microphone, even if the recipient hadn't answered the call. Apple quickly fixed that bug.

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